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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Late Steve Goodman gets renewed attention thanks to 'Go Cubs Go'

"When the Cubs Go Marching In"

The Chicago Cubs joyous 2016 season, resulting in its historic World Series win, brought late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman back into the spotlight.

Chicago native and lifelong Cubs fan Goodman, who died of leukemia in September, 1984, at 49, wrote such classic songs as the much-covered "City of New Orleans" and David Allan Coe's country hit "You Never Even Called Me By My Name." But this last baseball season, at least, he is best-remembered for "Go Cubs Go," his team anthem that debuted in Chicago a few months before his death, but has lived on ever after.

In fact, "Go Cubs Go," which plays after every Cubs win at Wrigley Field, made it into Billboard's Pop Digital Song Sales and Digital Song Sales charts (Nos. 21 and 49 respectively) for the week ending Nov. 19. Also per Billboard, the song received 15,000 downloads and 2.5 million U.S. streams (mainly from YouTube). Additionally, it topped the LyricFind U.S. chart (ranking the top trending lyric searches) for the week ending Nov. 19, and reached No. 5 on Spotify's Viral 50 list.

"Steve wanted to see the Cubs win the World Series, and they ended up spreading some of his ashes in Wrigley Field," says Chicago blues-rock great Corky Siegel, who, incidentally, had a big fan in the late Ernie Banks, the legendary "Mr. Cub," who attended concerts by Siegel's Chamber Blues group.

"Every time Steve's mother came to a game they announced her, and I was very close friends with her up until her death last year."

Producer Jim Tullio, who worked closely with Goodman and was also close to his family, notes the recent "scare" when a contest was proposed to replace "Go Cubs Go."

"Steve's brother David wrote to me and said, 'Tools, should we write another one?' and I said, 'You got to be kidding me! They already have the definitive song!' Thank God every song submitted was really bad: It took so long for 'Go Cubs Go' to get integrated into the whole system, and it really took off and stayed. But for a minute there it was kind of iffy."

As he was dying, Goodman wrote a second well-known Cubs song "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." But Tullio notes a third, lesser-known Goodman Cubs song appearing on the posthumously released Live at the Earl of Old Town (2006), which Tullio produced from a Goodman concert featuring guests Siegel, David Amram and Jethro Burns at the fabled Chicago folk club in 1978.

"He was on Elektra/Asylum, and they said they didn't want a live Steve Goodman record and never took the tapes," says Tullio. "I put them in the basement and totally forgot about them, and 30 years later I was looking around and low and behold, I found the tapes! I called [Goodman's and John Prine's late manager] Al Bunetta and said, 'You'll never guess what I just found—three nights live at the Earl of Old Town!'"

On the tapes Goodman composed, on the spot, the song "When the Cubs Go Marching In," mentioning in the lyrics then contemporary Cubs like Dave Kingman and Bruce Sutter.

"It was really clever and really good," says Tullio. "Now a lot of people are mentioning his third song about the Cubs."

Prine, says Tullio, called Live at the Earl of Old Town Goodman's best record.

Siegel remembers first meeting Goodman when he and his Siegel-Schwall Band had a residency at Chicago's Quiet Knight club.

"This kid in the audience with a guitar was actually playing along with us," says Siegel. "I was thinking 'Wow!' and stopped the band and said, 'Kid! What do you think you're doing, playing guitar in the audience? Get up here!' And he came up and played, and the next week brought John Prine with him, and both sat in!"

Incredibly, a friend of Siegel's caught a ball at Wrigley during the World Series.

"Steve threw it to him!" concludes Siegel.



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